I’ve been a fan of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for quite some time. It is not only his wisdom or erudition that I have come to appreciate and enjoy, but also the fashion in which he positions and markets himself to the American public.
He is known as Americas’ Rabbi in part because he is articulate and is commenting on the issues of the day unlike any other leader. Boteach is the former Chabad Rabbi at Oxford University where he spent eleven years but ran afoul of Chabad policy by hosting personalities like Bishops and Cardinals as well as others that did not sit well with the way in which Chabad necessarily wanted to be viewed.
Boteach knows how to use shock value and sensationalism to his maximum benefit. That’s why two of his bestselling books were entitled, “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus.” On the latter he commented over Shabbos at the Westhampton Beach Synagogue emporium of Rabbi Marc Schneier that he has no problem considering Jesus the son of God—and that’s because all of us are the sons or daughters or the children of God and Jesus was no different.
Rabbi Shmuley, as he is widely known, is chock full of charisma and energy. He toys with audiences the way a kid would play with a yo —yo. On Friday night at the shuls Shabbat dinner the subject was the shooting tragedy in Newton, Connecticut where 26 people were wantonly slaughtered by a crazed gunman six months ago. Rabbi Shmuley says he took umbrage to President Obama’s comment at the time to the president’s comment that those murdered are now in a better place. “Six-year old children have no business being murdered,” the Rabbi said, “They should be at home being tucked into bed by their parents.” He was trying to say that as believers we do not necessarily have to be accepting of everything Hashem directs at us. On the contrary, he says we have to take issue, get angry if need be and demand different actions by God.
He says we need to step up and speak out the way in which Moshe Rabbeinu spoke up when he was first told he would redeem the Jewish nation from Egypt. It was at that juncture, as reported in the Torah, that the enslavement of the Jews intensified to which Moshe responded to G-d by saying, “Why are you acting in such a hateful way,” with Your people.” It was as if, Hashem was maneuvered onto the ropes by Moshes forwardness and had to respond to the critique, if you will, says Rabbi Shmuley.
Boteach is a walking talking man bites dog story. He knows how to titillate and provoke an audience. Mostly he gets his audiences exercised and their blood coursing through their veins with a new intensity. And guess what, he says that the book he is currently working on and that will be available soon is entitled, “Kosher Lust.”
That’s a tiny glimpse into Shabbos with Shmuley Boteach. He’s really something to behold.